I wanted to call this post “be careful what you wish for” but thought better of it. Although, looking back at the past five years, it all really did start with an innocent enough new years resolution to “teach ten people how to grow their own food.” Fast forward to today and I’ve had the pleasure of being in the epicenter of the community garden movement through the award winning Peterson Garden Project and my participation in the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA). The leap from new year’s 2010 to today started with an empty lot, a photograph on a butcher shop wall and my greatest generation parents who taught me how to garden and cook (among many other things.)
What I’ve found as I’ve lectured across the country and mentored organizations who are interested in using gardening as a means for positive change is that everyone asks the same questions. And they usually start with the “hard” stuff – where to get the soil, how to acquire the land and how to access water. But these are really the simple tasks related to a community garden. Defining, nurturing and growing the community is the important part for long-term sustainability in a garden.
And that’s why I wrote this book.
This delightful “handbook” by Joy, a master gardener, offers equal parts sociology skills, organizational principles, business management tips, and illustrated guides for (among other things) planting seeds with the tip of a finger. All these disparate areas of knowledge and skill are relevant to developing a community garden. As the book shows, it is a place so complex that understanding human personalities—as noted in a section called “How to Get Along”—becomes as critical as garden essentials like “How to Read a Seed Packet.” The section titled “How to Hold a Community Meeting” includes reminders about oft-overlooked logistical details as securing a venue with sufficient parking and a children’s play area. Meeting agendas, Joy says, must be precise and comprehensive and include actions items. Fund-raising, work days, group rules, and registration are all elements that must be in place before planting even starts. The section “Teaching New Gardeners” flows naturally into the helpful tips about plants’ growth habits, sun needs, and seasonal characteristics. An excellent tool that cultivates human communities as much as it grows vegetables in group gardens. (Dec.)
If you’re thinking of starting a community garden, I hope you find this book helpful. You can find it here:
P.S. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book go to support the American Community Gardening Association